Home > Cardiff City, Carling Cup, Championship > Cardiff City season review 2011/12

Cardiff City season review 2011/12

With a new manager and what appeared to be a whole new squad to go with it, Cardiff City went into the 2011/2012 season with fans expecting little more than a mid-table finish. How wrong we would all be! A season which saw the Bluebirds compete for much of the season as real automatic promotion challengers, as well as a memorable cup run, helped make this one of the most memorable seasons in Cardiff City’s history.

The season began with the Bluebirds travelling to London on the opening weekend to face a West Ham side who were favourites for an instant return to the Premier League. After soaking up the pressure for much of the game, it looked as though Malky Mackay’s men would be heading back to Cardiff with a well-earned point, but in the dying minutes of the game, one of many new faces, Rudy Gestede, made space down the right-hand side to cross for Kenny Miller who beat Robert Green to send the pocket of City fans wild. In many ways, what we saw in this opening match characterised what Mackay had brought to the club – hard work, a strong team ethic, and leaving nothing out on the pitch in order to win the hearts of the supporters.

This impressive victory was followed up with a 3-1 home win against Bristol City in the Severn-side derby, but sandwiched between the two league matches was the start of what would turn into another magical cup run, starting away at Oxford United. City needed extra-time to prevail against the U’s, with goals from Peter Whittingham and Nat Jarvis seeing the Bluebirds through.

Despite a home loss to surprise package Brighton – who took the league by storm in the opening months – and draws away at Burnley and Portsmouth, City rounded off what many would agree was a decent start to Mackay’s first season in charge, picking up victories against Doncaster in the League and Huddersfield in the cup. The Bluebirds would again need extra-time to prevail, but a fantastic display from Don Cowie and Craig Conway gave City fans a lot to be hopeful for in a 5-3 victory. The Bluebirds used momentum from these early rounds to come out on top against fellow Championship sides Leicester and Burnley at home in the following rounds – it was now that the Cardiff faithful could begin to get excited.

As the months passed, Cardiff found themselves in third place heading into their quarter-final clash with Blackburn after a huge victory at home to Southampton, as well as picking up all three points against Barnsley, Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace (a side we would see a lot of during the course of the season). The build-up to the QF match was dominated by the recent death of Gary Speed, a man who held a place in the hearts of all Welsh football supporters. It would prove to be a memorable night under the lights at Cardiff City Stadium, with Kenny Miller making the breakthrough on the 20 minute mark. A goal from Fillip Kiss at the start of the second-half all but ended the tie, with chants of Speeds name echoing around CCS on an emotional night that will not be forgotten for a long time, as Cardiff headed into the semi-finals with a 2-0 win.

Penalty heartache for the Bluebirds

The busy festive period saw a return of a mixed set of results – dropped points at home to Middlesbrough and away at Mackay’s old club Watford were followed up with victories against Forest and Reading. It meant that Cardiff were just two points off top spot going into the semi-final first leg away at Palace, a match that would test the nerves of all the travelling City faithful and those watching at home.

An eventful match ended with Palace taking a one goal advantage back to Wales for the return leg two weeks later, in which time City picked up a point away at bottom of the table Doncaster, and all three points in what would arguably be the game of the season at home to Portsmouth, with Craig Conway’s late goal rescuing all three points for a Cardiff side who were still in with a real shout of both automatic promotion and a League Cup final place.

The second leg provided one of ‘those’ nights at Cardiff City Stadium. Despite the nerves, it was an atmosphere to savour. The match itself is now a blur, what is remembered however is Anthony Gardener’s own goal early on to send the ground into unrivalled joy. City dominated for large parts of the game, but Palace looked dangerous on the break through hot property Nathaniel Clyne and Sean Scannell. After over 200 minutes of football, the sides were still locked at 1-1, which meant it would go down to penalties. A tense shoot-out ended when Jonathan Parr missed his spot-kick to send Cardiff to Wembley… again.

Cardiff would win just one of their next five games, before taking on Liverpool in front of 90,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium. In an entertaining match, it was Young Player of the Year, Joe Mason, who put the underdogs ahead. It looked as though it wasn’t going to be Cardiff’s day after goals from Martin Skrtel levelled and Dirk Kuyt put The Reds ahead in extra-time. But in what would provide the highlight of the season, defender Ben Turner struck from inside the penalty area to send the game to penalties; queue scenes of mayhem in the Blue half of Wembley. Of course, Liverpool would go on to lift the cup, but the memories this dramatic cup run brought will stay with all Cardiff City fans for a long time.

The final two months of the season can be looked at in a couple of ways: Frustrating, but professional. Frustrating that City picked up three consecutive home draws, and six draws from seven games, but professional in a sense that they crossed the line by getting the results they needed, although it did go right to the wire on the final day against a Palace side seeking revenge.

With that, the season would go full circle and we ended where we begun. It’s best to forget what happened in the two play-off matches, which were just a little too much to ask after a long season. But even after that early Kevin Nolan goal in the second leg – which all but ended City’s play-off dreams – the Bluebirds faithful continued to chant behind Rob Green’s goal non-stop. This was our way of thanking the players for what has been, in many ways, one of the most memorable seasons following the club.

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